Programs

January 2014

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Posted by: Charles Montgomery on January 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

By Seth Geiser

Can art and design make us kinder? Can we design more trust or altruism into the city?

MOV invited students from CityStudio, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and SFUs School of Interactive Art and Technology to consider these questions through design.

The challenge? To create experiments and designs to test or boost feelings of trust and connection among total strangers.

On Nov 23, students tested their designs on hundreds of members of the public during two events at the Museum of Vancouver. We called this experiment The Happy City Machine. The student work was eye-opening, thought-provoking, and often great fun. Guest judge Marten Sims of the Vancouver Design Nerds helped choose three standout experiments. Here they are:

Now You See Me (ECUAD students)

Seated in adjoining isolation booths, pairs of participants were asked to don a pair of headphones and gaze through a long, narrow tunnel at eye height. Initially looking into darkness, each participant discovered at the switch of a light that a stranger was gazing back at them from the other end of the viewing tunnel. They were left to gaze at each others’ eyes for the duration of a song, such as "It's a Wonderful World." The experience led them well past the point of social comfort. Some shut their eyes. But most did not back away from the intimacy. After each round, the strangers would be introduced and invited to chat about their experience. Participants reported engaging in all kinds of ocular communication, from winks to moving their eyes in time with the music in a kind of playful dance. Most described the experience as positive, which is surprising given our general fear of eye contact with strangers.

Mani Mahmoudian image

Seth Geiser image

Rock the Boat (ECUAD students)

This installation consisted of a small wooden boat under a broad umbrella, onto which video was projected from below. Volunteers were invited into the boat's snug seating, where they were prompted to share secrets and jokes, and explore the idea that "we're all in the same boat." It's often hard to nudge strangers into proximity, but Rock the Boat succeeded, using clever design, intriguing projections and cozy arrangement to lure people together.

Mani Mahmoudian image

Mani Mahmoudian image

Laughing Dresses (SFU-SIAT students)

Laughter is contagious. But what if the laughter emerges disembodied through a hidden speaker and is accompanied by twinkling lights? This kinetic fashion experiment explored the idea using a motion-sensing dress that emitted the recorded sounds of the dress wearer's laughter. The intensity and pattern of laughter was determined by the movements of the wearer. The dress triggered an almost-viral chorus of laughter among party-goers.

Charles Montgomery image

It was wonderful to see the student designs getting so many strangers talking and playing together. The program convinced us to take things up a notch in 2014. Our new program, Urban Cortex, empowers students to take their social devices into the public realm. Stand by for event news!